Skip to main content

Design Data Management Essentials

Key Takeaways

  • What is design data management?

  • Why is managing your design data important?

  • What are the essentials for effective design data management? 

Design data management

All aspects of PCBA development and/or production depend on the clarity and accuracy of the design data. This data inherently includes the schematic capture, PCB layout, and BOM. However, this data can be dynamic, especially during prototyping and development, and often includes additions that must be included. Depending on your project, design data management may well be a complex process that involves many files, is accessed by many people, and requires advanced software to perform effectively.

What Is Design Data Management?

Design data management encompasses all activities related to the generation, acquisition, modification, and utilization of data that is related to your PCBA or electronic product design. Sources of data may include the following:

  • Schematic capture files

  • Component library files

  • BOM files

  • PCB layout files

  • CAM files

  • Drill hole files

  • Engineering change orders (ECOs)

  • Inspection files

  • Testing results files

The files above may be in various formats, depending on your design software, component source, and CM’s manufacturing preferences. Minimally, CAD files – for example, IPC-2581 or ODB++--and BOM files – are required for your boards to be fabricated and assembled. 

Why Is Managing Design Data Important?

Many circuit board designs take years and several revisions before they are optimal. Therefore, the investments in man-hours, materials, and processing can be quite extensive. And once a design has achieved this level, it is imperative that accurate reproductions be manufacturable at a high yield rate to satisfy customer expectations and maximize ROI. This is only possible when design data management is comprehensive and accurate.

Another common usage of previously vetted PCBA designs is as subassemblies of larger system designs. This strategy can significantly reduce development time and lower costs. This is due to the fact that much of the non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs associated with normal new product introductions (NPI) are unnecessary. 

For complex designs, it is often necessary or desirable to make use of the expertise of multiple designers or engineers. This type of team design can only be done when monitoring and control ensure that access to the design is maximized while protecting works in progress and securing completed tasks against loss. This is similarly important for concurrent engineering or parallel prototype design, which is implemented to shorten development cycles.

As circuit boards have become indispensable elements that enable electronic systems to perform smart functions, their application in complex and critical systems has grown significantly. In fact, virtually all vehicles that transport people rely, at least in part, on electronics to ensure passenger safety. This is not limited to terrestrial applications, as ships and aerospace platforms are similarly dependent. Therefore, there are many organizations that publish regulatory standards and rules that mandate certain essentials to be implemented for quality design data management. 

What Are the Essentials for Effective Design Data Management? 

As discussed above, there are many reasons that PCBA design data management is important and should be integral to your development process. Additionally, for critical industries such as automotive, medical devices, aerospace, and defense, quality management system regulations establish requirements for data management that typically extend into or through a product’s operational lifecycle to assist and improve risk management. Based on these requirements, we can define essentials for your design data management strategy, as listed below.

Effective Design Data Management Essentials

☐ Flexibility

A basic requirement for design data management is flexibility. This includes the ability to accommodate and integrate data from multiple sources and formats cohesively to enable effective evaluation and analysis.

☐ Accessibility

As there may be many people that require access to the design data, it is important that up-to-date completed design tasks – including revisions – be made available as quickly as possible.

☐ Security

In concert with maximizing accessibility is ensuring that in-design tasks are locked to prevent loss of important changes or data. This is essential for concurrent engineering activities.

☐ Collaboration 

Oftentimes, vendors provide minimal information and/or data about components. These distributors should be avoided. Not only does effective data management necessitate accurate component information, but a lack of information may be an indication of counterfeit parts, which is the type of contingency that data management is intended to mitigate.

☐ Compliance

Knowing and ensuring that your PCBA design data management strategy and execution meets or exceeds pertinent regulatory requirements is critical. Failing to meet this mandate may result in sanctions in the form of fines, inability to market your product, and loss of revenue.

Successfully satisfying the essentials above is best done by utilizing an advanced software tool that includes design and library data management. Cadence’s industry-leading PCB Design and Analysis Software includes integrated data management capabilities. Pulse is designed to promote in-design collaboration and works seamlessly with Allegro PCB Editor and other tools to optimize your board development process.

Leading electronics providers rely on Cadence products to optimize power, space, and energy needs for a wide variety of market applications. To learn more about our innovative solutions, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.